Transgender troops seek end to US military taboo

(From L to R), transgenders Major Alexandra Larsson of the Swedish Armed Forces, Sergeant Lucy Jordan of the New Zealand Air Force and Major Donna Harding of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps listen to Corporal Natalie Murray of the Canadian Forces speak during a a conference organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Palm Center in Washington on Oct. 20. AFP Photo

For Donna Harding, joining the Australian army was a bid to try to suppress what she had known from an early age – she was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.

“It’s quite a common pathway for people who are gender conflicted, trying to fix what we see is wrong with us, and see the military as the way of doing that,” Major Harding said.

She was speaking at an unprecedented gathering of transgender troops from foreign armies in Washington, sharing their experiences in the hopes of persuading the Pentagon and the U.S. administration to break perhaps the last taboo – openly integrating members of their community into the military’s ranks.

Eighteen countries around the world expressly allow transgender personnel to serve, including major U.S. allies like Australia, Britain, Canada, Sweden and New Zealand.

But in the United States, despite the 2011 repeal of the divisive “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which banned gays from serving openly, there is little talk of extending the same rights to transgender people.

There are an estimated 15,500 transgender people believed to be serving in the U.S. armed forces, but, under the current rules, if they are discovered the military is required to dismiss them….

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